Graduate’s Fiji stint

As a fresh graduate from the University of Rochester in New York, Nancy Walden did not dream her Arts degree would see her travel almost halfway around the world to a small Pacific island.

Later when she was working as a travel agent in Los Angeles, she had an opportunity to visit Fiji in the late 1960s where she made contact with the Hunt family of Hunts Travel Service. Through this meeting in Nadi she ended up visiting Yanuca Island home to Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa.

“I was based in Los Angeles and came to Fiji for a visit and ended up coming to the newly-constructed resort,” Nancy said during her recent visit to the resort.

Now 75, Nancy recalls how much the resort has changed over the years particularly the expansion from when it opened in 1967 with only three blocks and 108 rooms, a restaurant and the lagoon pool that was situated close to the Lagoon Restaurant.

“I met Paddy Doyle who was involved in the development of the resort which was known as the Fijian at the time,” said Nancy. One thing led to another and before she knew it she was working as an assistant manager and was given the responsibility of a few areas including public relations.

As Nancy recalls opening a new hotel was not an easy task as there was a lot of training to be done. However what did come easy, she says most naturally to Fijians, was the hospitality and warmth.

“Of course we hired staff from the community here and they underwent training and we had to teach the new recruits how to cook and serve meals and drinks so it took a lot of patience but our guests seemed to understand this as well,” she said.

“All the managers then were expatriate but it is now so nice to see that things have also changed in terms of the management team.”

Nancy spent almost a year and a half at the Fijian before she returned home and eventually settled in Hawaii where she now resides.

Lata Yaqona

Published in the Fiji Timed on Saturday,March 15, 2014.

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